Get to know us.
We are a community of faculty, scholars, staff, and students devoted to engagement in the humanities.
The Newhouse Center faculty fellows consists of Wellesley faculty on sabbatical and summer fellows. View previous fellows.
Soo Hong is a sociologist of education who studies the relationships between schools and families/communities, exploring the impact of race, culture, social history, and political life. She explores the central role of families and communities in school transformation through models that emphasize parent leadership, community organizing, and democratic forms of participation. Hong is the author of the recently released Natural Allies: Hope and Possibility in Teacher-Family Partnerships (Harvard Education Press, 2019) as well as A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2011). At the center of her research and teaching is a desire to develop action-oriented research that is integrated with practice and grounded in the lived experiences of young people and families in urban schools.
While at the Newhouse Center, she will be working on a project, entitled “Essential Understandings: New Teachers’ Beliefs About Family and Community.” In this project, she will explore the beliefs and experiences of new teachers as they enter the classroom for the first time to understand the views and perspectives they bring about families into their work as educators, the questions and challenges they encounter, and the early experiences with students’ families that shape and influence their evolving practice as teachers.
Veronika Fuechtner is an associate professor of German at Dartmouth College, where she also teaches comparative literature, Jewish studies, and women’s and gender studies. She also holds an appointment as adjunct associate professor in the department of medical education at the Geisel School of Medicine. Fuechtner is the author of Berlin Psychoanalytic: Psychoanalysis and Culture in Weimar Republic Germany and Beyond (California, 2011) and co-editor of Imagining Germany, Imagining Asia (with Mary Rhiel, Camden House, 2013) and A Global History of Sexual Science 1880-1960 (with Douglas Haynes and Ryan Jones, California, 2017). Her research interests include the history of psychoanalysis and sexology, the relationship between science and culture, discourses on race and ethnicity, German-language modernism, contemporary culture, German-language film, and global cultural and scientific histories. Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, American Psychoanalytic Association, Deutsche Schillergesellschaft, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, National Endowment for the Humanities, Social Science Research Council, and the American Academy in Berlin.
Abstract: Killer Jokes: The Lasting Laughter of German Humor on Colonialism and Slavery
German humor has such a profoundly bad reputation that even the idea of it has served as the butt of many jokes. One might think of Monty Python’s Killer Joke as effective warfare against the Germans, or of Mark Twain’s painful experience of the Awful German Language, which helped cement the stereotype that Germans are neither very good at producing nor at appreciating humor. While my project discusses many examples of the genre, it doesn’t answer the question of whether German humor might be funny. Instead, it explores when and why humor on controversial topics becomes socially acceptable, and when and why it ceases to be acceptable: how does the evaluation of humor shift over time and how do communities of laughter constitute, disband or go undercover? I engage these larger questions using visual humor on colonialism and slavery as it relates to dramatically shifting politics of the nation, gender and race from the 19th through the 21st century. My project thus subscribes to the notion that humor is never universal or based on automatic reactions, but always historically and culturally contingent and contextual.
Sara Kippur is Associate Professor of French at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where she also serves as Chair of the Department of Language & Culture Studies (on leave in 2020-21). Her research is at the intersection of 20th-21st century French and Francophone literature, translation studies, cultural studies, and book history. She has published a scholarly monograph on modern and contemporary self-translators, titled Writing It Twice: Self-translation and the Making of a World Literature in French (Northwestern, 2015), and she is co-editor of the volume Being Contemporary: French Literature, Culture, and Politics Today (Liverpool, 2016), which examines current, pressing issues in the field of French Studies.
While at the Newhouse Center, she will be working on her current book project, a literary history tentatively titled Transatlantic Pacts: America and the Production of Postwar French Literature. The book demonstrates how institutional shifts in the U.S.—in literary journalism, the expansion of Hollywood, the rise of television, and the explosion of the college textbook industry—transformed how French literature was produced and read both in America as well as, more surprisingly, in France itself. Drawing on archival collections in France and the U.S., Transatlantic Pacts examines a slate of unknown, and lesser known, literary materials to show ties between American cultural institutions and the writing of some of France’s most renowned postwar writers—authors such as Samuel Beckett, Assia Djebar, Marguerite Duras, Romain Gary, Eugène Ionesco, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Irene Mata is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and the Faculty Director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Wellesley College. She was born and raised in an immigrant family in the El Paso/Juárez border area and earned her BA and MA in English and Women’s Studies from New Mexico State University and her PhD in Literature from the University of California at San Diego. Her research interests include the analysis of gender, labor, immigration, and representation in contemporary cultural productions. She has also studied and published essays on how current globalization projects have impacted the lives of women on the U.S./Mexico border area and how those changes are represented.
Her first book, Domestic Disturbances: Reimagining Narratives of Gender, Labor, and Immigration (UT Press), suggests a different way of looking at Chicana/Latina immigrant stories, not as a continuation of a literary tradition, but instead as a specific Latina genealogy of immigrant narratives that more closely engage with the conditions of immigration occurring in our current historical moment. Her current manuscript, Beyond the Moment: The Art of Resistance in Latinx Performance, engages with various texts that rely on previous moments of resistance to imagine new—and future—visions of social change.
My project, tentatively titled Beyond the Moment: The Art of Resistance in Latinx Performance, seeks to explore the work of various cultural producers who use their creativity to tell stories of their communities’ fight for social justice and equality, while simultaneously focusing on uncovering the historical inspirations responsible for contemporary art, literature, and performance. In illustrating how earlier movements have impacted newer movements and their ideas of social justice, I situate the creative works of Luis Alfaro, Coco Fusco, Virginia Grise, Irma Mayorga, and the No Papers No Fear organizers, as forms of cultural activism that seek to both archive previous movements of struggle and to find ways to combine and reassemble these past forms of activism into dynamically intersectional modes of resistance that actively imagine more egalitarian futures. My project engages with these texts in an effort to build on an archive of struggle and opposition and document the cultural modes of resistance that are working towards an intersectional vision of social change. Ultimately, this project aims to contribute to the growing Chicanx/Latinx literature and theatre scholarship that centers the cultural productions of artists invested in using art as a tool for social change.
Mary Kate McGowan works in metaphysics, philosophy of language, feminism, philosophy of law, and their various intersections. She has published on the free speech status of (allegedly) harmful categories of speech (e.g., pornography and racist speech); she writes about silencing (ways that our ability to communicate can be interfered with), and she has written about the scope of a free speech principle (i.e. investigating which sorts of actions ought to be covered by one and why). Her book Just Words: On Speech and Hidden Harm was published by Oxford University Press in 2019 and Speech and Harm: Controversies Over Free Speech, co-edited with Ishani Maitra, was published in 2012 also by Oxford University Press.
While at the Newhouse, she will continue work on Words in Action: A Textbook in Social Philosophy of Language. This is a textbook, co-authored with Ishani Maitra and under contract with Oxford University Press, and it is the first textbook in the exciting new subfield of applied (or social) philosophy of language. Chapter topics include: lying and deception, telling and testimony, silencing, jokes, consent, generics, slurs, linguistic oppression, sneaky linguistic devices, and language and law. Her next project is a public philosophy book on silencing. She hopes to start that project during the fellowship year.
Lawrence Rosenwald is the Anne Pierce Rogers Professor of English at Wellesley College, where he has been teaching since 1980, and a member of the Advisory Board of the College's Program in Peace & Justice Studies. He has published work on diaries, translation, the relations between words and music, literary multilingualism, and antiwar literature. He has also published literary and scholarly translations from French, German, and Yiddish, and has written and performed some fifty verse scripts for early music theater pieces, working with the Amherst Early Music Festival, Voices of Music, Artek, and the Texas Early Music Project. His Newhouse project is a book about being a pacifist critic, about what pacifist literary criticism might look like.
Ray Starr studies ancient Rome at the intersection of Book Studies, economic and social history, and cultural production. He has published studies of the physical form of ancient Roman literature (the papyrus roll) and its influence on writers and readers; how rolls were created and distributed; bookstores and their business models; how Roman students were taught to read and understand literature; and how illiterate audiences interacted with texts.
While at the Newhouse Center, he will be working on a long-term project on how readers in late antiquity were taught to understand Vergil's Aeneid, an epic central to Romans' conceptions of their identity but written 400+ years earlier in a vastly different political, social, and cultural world.
Summer 2020 Fellows
Antonio J. Arraiza-Rivera is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Wellesley College. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and his B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. His research explores how seventeenth-century Spanish and Portuguese lyric poetry was shaped by the shift from manuscript to print and by continental and transatlantic travel. His work has appeared in such journals as Hispamérica, Romance Notes and the Boletín de la Academia Puertorriqueña de la Lengua Española.
As a Newhouse Summer Fellow, he will be working on his book manuscript, Impresas ansias, a study on how depictions of writing enable three poets—Villamediana, sor Juana, and Melo—to address issues related to artistic autonomy and geographical displacement. A significant portion of this project examines the role of Luso-Castilian bilingualism in the poetry of Francisco Manuel de Melo (1608-66) in relation to the politically fraught arena of pre- and post-Restoration Portugal.
Genevieve Clutario specializes in gender and Filipinx history, Asian American Studies, history of U.S. empire, and transnational feminist approaches to the study of beauty and fashion
She is working on two research projects. This summer she will be completing her first book, Beauty Regimes: Modern Empires, the Philippines and the Gendered Labor of Appearance (Duke University Press, forthcoming), a book that examines the cultural, political, and economic dimensions of fashion and beauty systems that lay at the heart of modern empire and Philippine nation-building projects. She is also beginning a new historical project, The Taming of Tarhata Kiram: Colonial Experiments of Discipline in the Philippines’ Muslim South and the U.S. Heartland, tracks the United States’ efforts to subdue the “Moro [Muslim]” resistance through an extended colonial experiment of training and controlling a Muslim women in the 1910s and 1920s. The narrative of the book examines the almost soap operatic story of Kiram, documenting early surveillance of Kiram as a young teenager, her training is a “Filipino” in schools in the Philippine capital of Manila, “modernization” at a midwestern American University, and her eventual rebellion against Filipino and U.S. colonization upon her return to Sulu.
Elena is the author of Imaging Japanese America: The Visual Construction of Citizenship, Nation, and the Body (NYU Press 2004) and the coauthor of Miné Okubo: Following Her Own Road (University of Washington Press 2008). Her teaching and research straddles Asian American visual culture and contemporary Native American representation.
As a Newhouse Fellow, she will be working on a photo-essay, “Remembering the Battle of Greasy Grass (aka Little Bighorn) with the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Victory Riders.”
Since 2017, Elena has been traveling every June with members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on an annual horse ride that ends at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. The Lakota celebrate June 25 every year as the day they famously defeated General George Armstrong Custer and five battalions from the 7th Cavalry in one of the most mythologized battles in American history.
Elena’s photo essay commemorates the historical memory of this battle from its Native victors’ perspective. Respectful of the protocol that there are some things that cannot be recorded by the camera, the photographs in this essay will include only those moments in-between prayers featuring participants who have given their permission to be part of this public humanities project.
I am currently working on a collection of poems centered on the theme of limerence, with the working title “Limerence: The Wingless Hour.” The title is drawn from one of Nella Larsen’s unpublished (and lost) novel manuscripts, which itself was an echo of a line from a poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne. Limerence is a psychological term for passionate romantic infatuation, which differs from other (more hallowed or respected/respectable) forms of love, including platonic, but also filial, mature romantic, and religious. This collection has been on the back burner while I completed my monograph and other critical essays, and I want to use this coming summer to finally get this manuscript into shape to send out.
Some of the works in the collection are in prose, with a series of memoir vignettes based on family and other personal photographs. This series within the collection can be called an ekphrastic memoir, a genre that I think I’ve invented. Two of the sonnets from “The Wingless Hour” have been published; one appears in the Lambda Literary Poetry Spotlight, and the other in Anomaly journal. Other poems from the poetry manuscript appear in my first chapbook, The Book of Ours (Momotombo Press, 2009). The first chapter from the ekphrastic memoir series, “In the Photo,” appears in the inaugural issue of The Latino Book Review.
Octavio R. González is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Wellesley College. His monograph, Misfit Modernism: Queer Forms of Double Exile in the Twentieth-Century Novel, is forthcoming from the Refiguring Modernism Series at Pennsylvania State University Press (October 2020). His first poetry collection, The Book of Ours, was a selection of the chapbook series at Letras Latinas, University of Notre Dame (Momotombo Press, 2009). He is currently working on a second poetry manuscript, tentatively titled "Limerence: The Wingless Hour." Some poems from this collection appear in Lambda Literary's Poetry Spotlight (shorturl.at/bgxKN), Anomaly Literary Journal, La Guagua, and the "Taboo" series at La Casita Grande, as well as an anthology of Dominican poets in the diaspora (Retrato íntimo de poetas dominicanos, https://amzn.to/2Sz051V). Other poems appear in Puerto del Sol, OCHO, and MiPoesias, among other journals. González is also at work on what he calls an "ekphrastic memoir," the first part of which appears in the inaugural issue of the bilingual Latino Book Review. He is also at work on a closet drama (or dramatic dialogue), "Q & A." You can follow him on Twitter @TaviRGonzalez.
Erich Hatala Matthes is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Advisory Faculty for Environmental Studies at Wellesley College. His research concerns moral, political, and aesthetic issues surrounding art, cultural heritage, and the environment. He has published papers on a range of topics in these areas, including on cultural appropriation, repatriation, authenticity, historical injustice, environmental heritage, and the ethics of historic preservation.
At the Newhouse, Matthes will be completing a book titled Cancelled: When Good Artists Do Bad Things, under contract with Oxford University Press. The book, intended for a general audience, explores what we should do, think, and feel, when artists whom we love behave in morally objectionable ways. Does it affect the aesthetic quality of their artwork? Is it morally acceptable for us to engage with or enjoy that work? Should such work even be available for consumption, or should it be “cancelled”? In short, can we separate the art from the artist?
Jennifer Musto is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. An interdisciplinary scholar, her research utilizes qualitative methods and a feminist approach informed by intersectional and social science theories to explore sex trafficking, sex work and carceral responses to violence, exploitation, and punishment in the United States. An animating question that shapes her research on these topics is how laws, technologies, and collaborative modes of governance are leveraged to respond and to what effect. Her book, Control and Protect: Collaboration, Carceral Protection, and Domestic Sex Trafficking in the United States (University of California Press, 2016) examines state, non-state, and technology responses to domestic sex trafficking situations in the US. Her research has contributed to empirical research on the impact of anti-trafficking efforts in the United States and she has lectured and published widely on these topics. She recently co-guest edited the Special Issue "Technology, Anti-Trafficking, and Speculative Futures" for the Anti-Trafficking Review.
As a Knapp/Newhouse Summer Fellow, she will work on a new book project tentatively titled The Afterlife of Decriminalization: Networked Harms, Shadow Punishments, and Trauma Justice. Drawing on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations of judicial and child welfare efforts to respond to sex trafficking in the United States, the project investigates how technology and trauma-informed judicial approaches are being leveraged to identify and assist youth deemed “at risk” of sexual exploitation in the United States.
Petra R. Rivera-Rideau is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Wellesley College. She has a Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in African American Studies from Harvard University. Dr. Rivera-Rideau is the author of Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico (Duke University Press, 2015), and the co-editor of Afro-Latin@s in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas with Jennifer A. Jones and Tianna S. Paschel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). She has published articles in journals such as Latino Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, and Journal of Popular Music Studies, among others. Her 2018 article “If I Were You: Tego Calderón’s Diasporic Interventions” published in Small Axe won the inaugural Blanca G. Silvestrini Award for Outstanding Article in Puerto Rican Studies from the Puerto Rico section of the Latin American Studies Association. Dr. Rivera-Rideau’s work has received support from a Ford Fellowship, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, and the Social Science Research Council. She is currently working on two projects: one about the construction of Latinness in the Zumba Fitness program, and a second on the operations of Latino whiteness in the Latin urban music scene.
My book manuscript, tentatively titled Fun, Fitness, Fiesta: Constructing Latinness in Zumba Fitness, examines how Latinx cultures and identities are represented, negotiated, and challenged in the Zumba Fitness program. Zumba is a dance-fitness program that uses mostly Latin music such as reggaetón, salsa, and merengue, along with other world music genres like Bollywood, dancehall, and Afropop. Zumba boasts 180,000 classes in 200 countries, including regular Zumba classes (sometimes called Zumba Basic) and variations like Aqua Zumba, Zumba Gold, and Zumba Kids.
Fun, Fitness, Fiesta shows how Zumba Fitness creates a specific brand of “Latinness” that draws from and informs a wider set of values and assumptions about Latinx people and cultures in the United States. More specifically, Zumba Fitness promotes a tropicalized Latinness that reinforces stereotypes of the exotic, foreign, Latin other. Fun, Fitness, Fiesta demonstrates how Zumba’s tropicalized Latinness reproduces racist stereotypes of Latinx populations, contradicting the company’s message about cultural tolerance and acceptance. I use an interdisciplinary approach that combines different sources including media coverage of Zumba, advertisements, products and videos produced by Zumba, and interviews that I conducted with Zumba instructors. Taken together, these sources tell a complex story about how Zumba represents and disseminates ideas about “Latin culture,” and how these representations are interpreted on the ground. I argue that it is critical to unpack the lessons, images, and ideas about Latinx cultures that circulate in the Zumba universe. Doing so unearths much deeper and entrenched understandings of the relationship between race, belonging, citizenship, and Latinidad.
Jay Turner has taught at Wellesley since 2006. He received his PhD from Princeton University and his undergraduate degree at Washington and Lee University. His teaching and research at Wellesley are at the intersection of US environmental history and environmental policy. He is co-author of The Republican Reversal: Conservatives and the Environment from Nixon to Trump (2018) and The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics Since 1964 (2012).
This summer he will be working on his book, Charged: An Environmental History of Batteries and Prospects for a Clean Energy Future. From disposable AA batteries in remote controls to the lithium-ion batteries powering a new generation of electric cars, the history of batteries offers a window into the challenges of achieving a just and environmentally sustainable future. By focusing on the environmental history of a ubiquitous, but understudied, consumer product essential to a modern culture of mobility, this project aims to inform current debates and plans for a clean energy future.
His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
I am an anthropologist who specializes in feminist and ethnographic methodologies. My work lies at the intersections of feminist technoscience and medical anthropology. I teach courses on gender, race, and science to bridge the gap between the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. My teaching and research attend to how histories of violence and racism are enveloped into scientific knowledge production.
As a Knapp/Newhouse Summer Fellow, I will revise my book manuscript titled Weighing the Future: Epigenetics and Pregnancy in Late Capitalism. Weighing the Future is the first ethnography of ongoing prenatal trials in the United States and United Kingdom. Studying prenatal trials reveals larger processes of late capitalism, surveillance, and environmental reproduction in a postgenomic era. I make the case that science, and how we translate and imagine it, is a reproductive project that requires anthropological and feminist vigilance. Instead of fixating on a future at risk, the book brings attention to how the present—the here and now—is at stake.
Thanks to the generosity of Mary L. Cornille and Jack Cogan, Wellesley College is able to appoint each year the Mary L. Cornille Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities. Cornille Professors are in residence for either a semester or a year. During this time, they contribute to the intellectual life of Wellesley College faculty with special attention to the intellectual growth of our undergraduates.
The Cornille Professorship is administered jointly by the Office of the Provost and by the Newhouse Center for the Humanities, with which the Cornille Professor is automatically affiliated.
Book artist, graphic designer, and design educator, Ken Botnick comes to Wellesley from Washington University where he directed the Kanzberg Book Studio and led studios in the design, production, and authorship of books. An internationally known artist, Ken's work can be found in The Library of Congress, The Bibliotheque Nationale de France, The Getty Center for Humanities, The Bodleian Library, The Newberry Library, the Yale Arts of the Book Collection and Wellesley Special Collections, among others. At Wellesley, Ken leads a faculty seminar entitled "Mining Special Collections: A Designer's Perspective," collaborating with Ruth Rogers of Special Collections and faculty around the college. For more information, see his website.
Elana Bridges ’20 is majoring in Art History. Her research interests include modern and contemporary art, with a specific focus on the art of Africa and the African diaspora. Her current research project entitled, “The Black Contemporary Artist as Archivist,” traces the ways three contemporary artists investigate and challenge notions of the archive. These artists, Fatimah Tuggar, Hank Willis Thomas, and Alexandra Bell, manipulate different archival sources to alter the context of found images and advertisement trademarks to reveal the often excluded narratives of Black people within these repositories.
Loogee Claude ’20 is majoring in Anthropology. Her interests are in how people make a place for themselves through media and entertainment. She is currently researching the effects of government-sponsored public art projects on the messages artists are able to convey through their work, and how these artists navigate this space.
Stephanie Cobas ’21 is majoring in American Studies. Stephanie is focused on the representation of friendships featuring women of color in various American television shows.
Edilia Foster ’20 is majoring in Philosophy. Her research focuses on forms of silencing that involve decisions not to speak because of fear that factors outside what we want to say (e.g. accents, group membership, speech impediments) will lead to misinterpretation of our testimony.
Cassandra Bianca Morales ’20 is majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Latinx Studies. Cassandra is currently working on a thesis project that is the culmination of her Mellon Mays research which is focused on how Brujería (Spanish word for “witchcraft) is being reclaimed, reinterpreted, and reimagined by black and brown communities in the U.S —online and in real life. She is drawing her research from the anthropology of magic, ethnographic research she conducts with bruja/x/os, and media portrayals of brujx communities, among other things.
Sandra Riaño ’21 is a double majoring in History & Women’s and Gender Studies. Using Chicanx decolonial frameworks, Sandra weaves together the contributions of the black and latino freedom struggle through an examination of the Black Panther and Young Lords Party. Paying particular attention to the development of a feminist political ideology by women in both parties, Sandra engages ideas surrounding liberation, self determination, and empowerment.
Tyler Vargas ’21 is double majoring in Africana Studies and Sociology. Tyler is currently working on a project that examines the meanings of certain hairstyles for Black women.
Gabriela Varela ’21 is pursuing an individual major in Ethnic Studies. Her current research focuses on archiving the histories of student-led movements and centering the voices of students of color in Wellesley College’s history.